Instant gratification proves taking things slow speeds up success


art by Erin Barchet

Alice Yu

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s getting lost in today’s society where buying clothes only requires a few clicks on a keyboard. Instant gratification now reaches far past finance and into all aspects of life, from waiting for content to load on the internet to receiving the grade from today’s test.
“We fall victim to it a lot, and in a lot of ways it’s hurting us. Like we eat unhealthy and then start habits like that,” sophomore Dalton Nunamaker said. “Instant gratification can be used for some good things, but it’s also very dangerous because it can lead to bad situations. We’re so caught up in this instant gratification where we want everything right now and we’re not really focusing on healthy and positive lifestyles.”
After examining the video viewing habits of 6.7 million internet users, Ramesh Sitaraman, a computer science professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, found that on average, subjects were only willing to wait two seconds for a video to load before abandoning the video. For every additional second, the abandonment rate increased by roughly 5.8 percent.
From fitness to finance, the results of instant gratification sometimes sound too sweet to pass up. In her sophomore year of college, personal finance instructor Susan Lidholm came close to trading in perseverance for defeat when weighing the benefits of taking on student loans to earn her college degree.
“In the long run, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my desire if I wouldn’t have had that college degree. It was something very well worth waiting for because I got to go into a career that I truly love,” Lidholm said. “When it comes to instant gratification, I have to take a moment and say, ‘All good things come in time.’”
The urge to forgo the grueling hard work was something junior Tylee Schnake battled with during middle school. The end of the school day signals play time on iPhones and school-issued iPads rather than afternoons completing homework. With an abundance of distractions, delayed gratification is easily pushed to the back of the mind and forgotten.
“Typically people are like, ‘You have to think about it in the moment,’ but you also have to think about what you do, how it affects things in the future,” Schnake said. “My mom always told me, ‘Tylee, I know you like to relax, but you can relax later.’ You can’t always just think of ‘in the now.’”
Studies show those without the ability to delay gratification had higher incarceration rates and were more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.
[quote cite=”Susan Lidholm”]When it comes to instant gratification, I have to take a moment and say, ‘All good things come in time.’” [/quote] In his 1970 study, psychologist Walter Mischel placed a cookie in front children and told each child it had two choices: they could either eat the cookie immediately, or they could wait until he returned from running a brief errand and receive an additional cookie. The children who chose the second option scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT and earned higher incomes.
For Nunamaker, his cross country and track practice schedule motivates him to forget instant gratification, stick to healthy diet and keep consistent workouts.
“It makes you focus on the greater goal, especially with a team like that,” Nunamaker said. “You know you have people you’re supposed to be supporting and you’re working for them too.”
Psychology supports the concept that practicing patience pays off in the end, from better figures in a savings account to a more fulfilling life.
“There’s so many places where [instant gratification] can go, from a marriage to finance to how you work as a student,” Lidholm said. “It’s endurance, and life is about endurance. It’s not instant.”
art by Erin Barchet
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